I just got back from a "Theology of Social Justice" class at Vintage Faith Church. There was good discussion and one of the facilitators gave a lightning quick history of the nation of Israelfrom its inception. They were birthed in oppression (Egypt) and God used a man (Moses) to lead them out of the oppression so they could become a powerful nation that was different-a model of what a healthy society could be. Instead, in less than a hundred years, this "different" nation was enslaving its own people and treating its weaker citizens cruelly. Despite their legacy, they forgot about justice and mercy, without which they would have never existed. So, God allowed them to be overpowered and they got a taste of their own evil, on the receiving end. This led to great repentance and promises to be good if only they could have a nice life again. So they got to be free again until they forgot and again the powerful Israelites abused and oppressed the helpless ones.
Sounds a lot like modern times to me. We prosper and our prosperity leads to power imbalances which leads to ease of oppression. (In my thinking, power imbalances could just as easily lead to great demonstrations of compassion and generousity. . . but that's a tangent) We the people are enslaved by the search for the American Life and our owners are mortgage companies, Visa, and Social Security. We are enslaved by our need to be perfect or comfortable and our owners are L'oreal and Day Spas and the Doubletree. Or, are our owners the media that tells us to be uncomfortable until we have the perfect complexion or the perfect pair of jeans or the perfect vacation that we "deserve"? And so, in our enslavement we've allowed outside interests to own our energies and our lives, instead of pursuing the things of the Spirit. I'm not saying that specific products or goals are evil. But when Anything causes me to put my needs/wants over the life of any other human being, I need to rethink my priorities.
The irony of being owned by our dissatisfaction is that it permits us to enslave other people. Where else do sweatshops and 11-year old sex slaves, destitute Mexican tomato farmers, and 6-year old cigarette rollers come from? The rights of millions of people to a decent livelihood are consumed by our consumerism.
It is irresponsible for me, for you, for our country to allow the status quo to be an excuse for these evil systems to continue.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor during the 1930s and 1940s said,
"Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility."
He was sent to a concentration camp and eventually executed for attempting (with a group of other people) to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer was willing to take responsibility for his own actions. He knew an evil that was being done and chose not to ignore it ...or to say that he had no idea what to do....or say that it was too large a problem to face. He did what he could with the resources available to him. If more of the churchmembers of his time had been willing to do the same, history would have been incredibly different. The same is true of many other historical agonies. The same is true of today's agonies. IF I'm responsible to do what I can do, I will act however I'm able. (learn, educate others, boycott products and stores, vote, write letters, start small organizations, go on fact-finding vacations, purchase wisely, maintain dissatisfaction for the status quo, pray, etc),